Copyright © 2000 by Debra Koontz Traverso.
Your business is new. Or small. Or cash poor. Or unknown. Or whatever would be the opposite description of your competition.
If you think that's a problem, then think again. The key to standing out from your competition is to tweak every aspect of your business' image. Here are the first ten steps to get you started. Find hundreds more in Outsmarting Goliath: How to Achieve Equal Footing with Companies that are Bigger, Richer, Older and Better Known, Bloomberg Press, 2000.
1. Choose the right name
For example: Jiffy Lube is an incredibly clever name, but research shows that the descriptive name causes most Americans to think that's all that Jiffy Lube can do: lube your car.
2. Excel in customer service
For example, if I owned an independent bookstore and a huge Barnes and Noble moved nearby, I would place coat racks inside the front door to encourage lengthier and more comfortable shopping; I would set up an art center where kids can create their own books while mom and dad browse; I would offer storage bins where customers can stow their packages so that their hands are free to pick up books; I would print out and hang up reviews of books from Amazon.com for customers to read to help them with their selections. (They won't hurry home to buy from Amazon because the postage and handling negates the discounted price.) And, of course, I would offer refreshments, as my competitor does.
3. Identify your USP, then send out a unified message
For example: If you own a clothing store, you can't expect to advertise both "rock bottom prices" and "exclusive designer merchandise." At first blush this may seem like a strategy that would appeal to everyone, but it will actually confuse customers and they won't show up. Due to experience, they won't believe that they can get both advantages in one store.
4. Develop a dynamite descriptor of your company
For example: A cookie company near my house is called Uncle Ralph's Cookies; yet, on their delivery vans and stationery, they write "not yet famous" in a different color and slightly above the name, so that it reads "Uncle Ralph's not yet famous Cookies." This six-word tagline tells consumers who they are, what business they're in, how they stand in relation to their competition, what their intent is (to grow and become famous), and it says they have a sense of humor.
5. Meet clients in neutral locations
For example: I like breakfast meetings best. I meet clients in coffee houses or hotel breakfast restaurants. The prices are more reasonable and there's never a waiting line. It's early so no one is rushed yet; both parties are fresh, unfrazzled, and able to concentrate.
6. Sell benefits, not features
For example: Don't say: "We offer a list of A, a directory of B, and a group of C to choose from." This is company-oriented and talks about features. Instead say, "With A you will become thinner, with B you will get richer, and with C your love life will improve ten-fold." This is "you"-oriented and talks in benefits.
7. Create an Advisory Board
For example: Print the names of advisory board members on company literature. The immediate image is one of size, success and stability. And the best part? An advisory board is not a board of directors, so they have no legal or financial responsibility. Therefore, they can do as little or as much as YOU want them to. Your primary goal is to get their name associated with you to lend you credibility. And remind them to include their role as advisor on every piece of biographical information that goes out about them.
8. Present yourself as successful
For example: You may not be able to describe yourself as "experienced," but you might be able to say you are "talented" or have "imagination" and those two words deliver the same level of comfort that potential customers are seeking.
You don't want to describe your company as new, so you might say that it is "innovative" or "revolutionary." In Outsmarting Goliath you'll find five pages just on the right words to choose from.
9. Know how to answer awkward questions
For example: "How long has your company been in business?" When a client asks that, he's looking for stability. So, if the answer is only a short time, then expound on how much experience you gained in the field prior to launching the business.
"How large is your company?" Here, the client is looking for assurance that you can do the job. In other words, even though his question suggests a request for a number, what he's looking for is assurance more than he is a number. Give him the assurance and you may not have to fess up on a number. Say, "Large enough to handle this project with an excellent staff and give you these results....." then bridge immediately to how the client will benefit. This will give your client the assurance he's actually seeking.
10. Use business cards creatively
For example: If you don't think that a company president in your line of work should make sales calls, then print separate business cards that announce you to be Director of Sales or Vice President of Marketing. After all, you are those roles, too. But a word of caution: think this process through completely. If at any point you have to meet with clients as company president, then your credibility may be tarnished later on.
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